Media Center80-90 Percent of Children in Orphanages Are Not Orphans

Photo by Mikaela Sansone for CRS

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Tom Price
Catholic Relief Services
[email protected]
(410) 951-7450


BALTIMORE, MD, May 31, 2017 – To mark International Children’s Day on June 1st, the leaders of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Lumos and Maestral International draw attention to this little-known fact: 80-90 percent of children living in orphanages across the world have at least one living parent.

The three agencies are working together to change the way we care about vulnerable children by reuniting these children with their families and supporting those families by converting orphanages into family support centers. They will also prevent many more children from ever entering orphanages by working with governments and communities to provide the support families need to stay together.

Currently, the partners are semi-finalists in the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s 100 & Change competition which will award a $100 million grant to solve a critical problem of our time. Selecting the proposal from nearly 2,000 entries shows both a recognition of the need to reform the system, and that a global response is necessary and achievable.  Learn more about Changing the Way We Care.

“On a day when we celebrate childhood, we need say that the world is not doing right by millions of children in orphanages,” said Sean Callahan, CRS president & CEO. “We know that the majority of children growing up in orphanages around the world have a least one parent, often too poor to take care of them, and we need to reunite these children with their families.”

The main driver separating children from their families is poverty, not the death of parents, as we are often led to believe. Other reasons include disabilities, learning difficulties or illnesses that leave parents feeling overwhelmed when they don’t even have the basic resources to care for their children.

“We have to move away from institutionalization of children,” says Philip Goldman, Founder and President of Maestral International, a leading global expert on child protection and development. “We know that children can only reach their full development potential in family environments. Research shows that for every three months in an orphanage, children lose a month of development.”

It was after J.K. Rowling (author of the Harry Potter books) witnessed children suffering in orphanages that she founded Lumos with the goal to return children in institutions to their families or other family care. Lumos has already helped more than 17,000 children make this move, mostly in Eastern Europe. This week it reported that in Bulgaria the number of children’s institutions has decreased by two-thirds in five years and the country is on track to close all of them by 2020.

CRS, Lumos and Maestral International are committed to taking this mission worldwide to replace orphanages with family care for the approximately 8 million children now in orphanages across the globe.

The problem of orphanages, well-meaning donors and the trafficking of vulnerable children can only be overcome with the commitment of national governments. Effective and enforced policies are needed that phase out orphanages and introduce family support centers that enable poorer parents and children with disabilities to stay together as a family.


Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding. For more information, please visit or and follow CRS on social media: Facebook, @CatholicRelief@CRSnewsYouTube, Instagram and Pinterest.

Tags: Children, Youth

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